'Awa Pana'ewa is not a name we can trace back to old Hawai'i. When first collected, this cultivar was tagged as 'short internode green' or "SIG," a misleading label but one which persists despite the purple color above the nodes. Küpuna in the Hawaiian Homelands area of Pana'ewa have preferred to call it "Pana'ewa" because it was once very prevalent there.
This cultivar has also been found growing in other areas on the island of Hawai'i, for example, in Maulua gulch and a spot near the village of Honomü.
Otto Degener comments in Flora Hawaiiensis that 'Awa has been planted by the Board of Agriculture and Forestry on the wet aa lava between Olaa and Rib, a region well suited to it" (Degener 1946, under the entry "Piperaceae"). The remaining forest stands of Pana'ewa may be those plantings from the Territorial Board of Agriculture and Forestry.
'Awa Pana'ewa is a low- to medium-growing plant with a mostly prostrate growth habit. The young plant starts out with very short internodes but, as the plant grows larger, they elongate somewhat. Both characteristics are often found on one plant, with very short internodes on the newer growth.
Reproduced with permission from
Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure
Edited by Ed Johston and Helen Rogers
Association for Hawaiian 'Awa